Does a work of art have the ability to reduce violence in America and inspire others to work for peace? That’s the hope of students at Centaurus High School (CHS) in Lafayette, Colorado, who are collaborating on a new piece of artwork.
The 2012 Sandy Hook shooting motivated CHS students to research gun violence for their political action class. They tracked U.S. deaths due to guns after Sandy Hook to the end of 2013, tallying a total of 12,400 reported gun fatalities. Last May, in the middle of the lesson, a 16-year-old student at Centaurus attempted to detonate a pipe bomb at the school. Thankfully no one was hurt, as a teacher discovered the device and administrators evacuated the building.
The shaken-up students wanted to do something to impress upon others what they’ve learned about violence in America, so they came up with the idea of inviting a local artist to create a sculpture from melted guns. “We figured what better way to bring awareness to the issue than build a memorial for those who died where people walk by it every day and think, ‘What is this about?'” 18-year-old student Kenny Sweetnam told Elizabeth Hernandez of the Boulder Daily Camera.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office donated surrendered guns, teaching the students how to disarm them and supervising the sawing of the guns so they no longer functioned. Sculptor Jessica Adams is guiding the students as they use the melted gun metal to create a sculpture out of 12,400 rods, one for each gun victim in 2013, with longer rods for younger victims, symbolizing the length of the lives they were not able to live.
Sheila Dierks, a priest at the Light of Christ Ecumenical Catholic Church who is volunteering with the project said, “By transforming these guns into art, we’re giving less power to the gun and more to the power of change we hope to see.”